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Highway Patrol Pilot Killed in Chopper Crash Identified

Highway Patrol Pilot Killed in Chopper Crash Identified

Aircraft from the Missouri Highway Patrol Aircraft Division (photo courtesy MHP)

St. Louis Post Dispatch via YellowBrix

October 15, 2010

ST. LOUIS COUNTY — The pilot of a Missouri State Highway Patrol helicopter died in a crash in a residential subdivision in the Clarkson Valley area this morning.

No one on the ground was injured.

The pilot was Highway Patrol Sgt. Joe Schuengel, 47. He is a 17-year veteran of the patrol.

Capt. Tim Hull of the Highway Patrol’s headquarters in Jefferson City confirmed that the helicopter carried only Schuengel, who was killed on impact. Hull said the helicopter had been assigned to traffic enforcement.

“It’s never easy when one on our own officers is killed. It’s a tough situation,” Hull said.

Schuengel was interviewed by the Post-Dispatch in 2005, when a reporter attended a “Citizen’s Academy” at the highway patrol. He talked about the job and risk troopers face every day.

“When you get up in the morning and put on that uniform, you’ve got to be in the mind-set that you’re going to go home at night, " Schuengel said at the time. “You’re going to pull in the driveway, you’re going to see your family.”

Sgt. Al Nothum of the Highway Patrol said the copter came down on a street and did not hit any homes. He said the cause of the crash is unknown. FAA investigators are on their way to the scene to begin their probe, said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

The helicopter dropped off several troopers in Jefferson County earlier and was returning to Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield when it crashed about 11 a.m., officials said.

The tower at Spirit airport lost the helicopter from radar, then called in the St. Louis County police helicopter to fly over the area and see what happened, said Spirit’s director, John Bales.

Bales said there were no distress calls prior to the crash.

“Not at all,” Bales said. “I’m assuming it was something catastrophic that happened and he (the pilot) did everything he could to land it in a safe place.”

The copter crashed in the 1800 block of Horseshoe Ridge Road, in unincorporated St. Louis County between Chesterfield and Ballwin. The area is near the Forest Hills Country Club.

The subdivision is the Kehrs Mill Trail subdivision, consisting of 102 homes that each sit on two acres or more. The subdivision is surrounded by a forest and includes three lakes.

Poncho Grajeda, 40, said he was working on a home in the area when he heard the helicopter’s engine making loud noises. He said he saw it struggling in the air, then come straight down.

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